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5 classic comedy scenes by Johnny Lever, Govinda, Kader Khan — 20 years of Dulhe Raja

With a confident Govinda, subtle Johnny Lever and an over-the-top plot, Dulhe Raja remains a memorable comedy for its depiction of pure wit and wisecracks that the two actors are most known for. 

Shriram Iyengar

Late comedian Robin Williams, in a moment of brilliant epiphany, once said, "You are only given a little spark of madness. You mustn't lose it." While the madness might have had tragic consequences for Williams himself, in India, that madness often results in blockbuster earnings at the box office.

Like Williams, who often played on the reactions and actions of his co-stars to create some of his most effervescent performances, actor Govinda could deliver the zaniest one-liners if his partners on-screen could hold the frame. Two of his greatest partners were Kader Khan and Johnny Lever. The best and most successful example of this partnership was Dulhe Raja (1998). 

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The film was directed by the late Harmesh Malhotra, who also directed popular films Nagina (1986) and Nigahen (1989). Dulhe Raja was filled with one liners, repartees, slapstick plots, and absolute gimmicks that would have failed in any other film. However, it is the trio of Govinda, Khan and Johnny who keep it afloat by their easy dialogue delivery and reactions. 

On the 20th anniversary of the film (it was released on 10 July 1998), we take a look at 5 scenes that remain memorable from a film that is still funny. 

1. The first meeting

This is the first meeting of the trio in the film. As the rich hotelier, KK Singhania (Khan) confronts the rude dhaba owner, Raja (Govinda), the conversation goes from being funny, to childish to absolutely ridiculous in a span of minutes. But it is the expressions of the three actors that keeps you from switching off. 

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While Govinda is all attitude and sports deadpan expressions, Khan goes over the top with his antics. But it is the sly machiavellian moves of Johnny's Bankhey that really take the cake. The comedian plays the double-crossing spy who sides with Govinda without risking his salary from his boss, the hotelier. 

2. The dhaba 

The entire film revolves around the conflict over Raja's dhaba in the premise of KK Singhania's posh five-star hotel. One of the funniest sequences of the film is when Singhania tries to get the shanty razed, resulting in Raja making a phone call to his uncle, Kalloo Yadav. Cut to a Bihari speaking Johnny Lever mounted on a telephone pole (those were the days of landlines). 

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While Johnny 's antics are funny, it is Govinda's absolute control over the style that truly sets up this scene. The actor looks the part as the unflustered, rustic, pulling the rug out from under the uber rich. No wonder he had a following among the less privileged. 

3. The cops 

If Kaaliya from Sholay (1975) makes an entry, so does the 'angrezon ke zamaane ka jailor', Asrani. The veteran actor plays the corrupt policeman who Singhania turns to next. However, like the first, Govinda has an ace up his sleeve. In a plot scene earlier, the actor is shown routing Asrani's cop in a hilarious game of one upmanship. 

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Unknown to Singhania, Raja has already played the game on the cop. But, it is the manner in which the entire scene is set up for the final reveal that makes it so funny. That and Asrani's reactions. 

4. The point about taxes 


What made Govinda's comedy so funny was not its punch lines, but its relatability. Throughout his career, the actor enjoyed playing the man-on-the-street taking shots on the ones in power. Films like Coolie No. 1 (1995). Khuddar (1994), Deewana Mastana (1997) and Swarg (1990) come to mind. Here, he plays the do-gooder dhaba owner who lets his customers eat at a reasonable price.

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The comedy takes a turn for the superlative as Johnny Lever gets his lines in. The comedian, who won his only Filmfare award for Best Comedy for this performance in this film, explains the reason he does not eat in the 'five star' hotel he works in. Considering the money spent on food delivery services, office goers today will agree as well.

5. The wise-ass manager 

The reason Johnny Lever was picked over Govinda or Kader Khan for the Filmfare Award might still be questioned, after all he had some fairly superlative performances in the years before. But in Dulhe Raja, the comedian delivers a subtle, confident performance that is both urban, immediate and diverse. Whether it is in his sudden change of reactions, snarky remarks, or the sly manipulation, the actor is on a different level in these scenes.